Super Mario Bros. Wonder Preview – An Astonishing Start

Things are looking promising for Mario's latest adventure.

Perhaps this is controversial, but I’ve not been a massive fan of the 2D Mario games. I’ve always played them when they were released but never found the motivation to finish them. Something about the New Super Mario Bros. games felt a bit stale. Perhaps it was because there were too many of them or because I loved the wondrous nature of games like Super Mario 64 and Odyssey. Nothing has ever really topped Super Mario Bros. 3 for me. But when Super Mario Bros. Wonder was revealed, I was excited – it looked like a genuine reinvention of the series and, more importantly, a step away from the New Super Mario Bros. aesthetic. Having played a few levels of Wonder, I’m excited to proclaim that this might be my favourite Mario yet.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder sees Mario and his merry gang travelling to the Flower Kingdom. While there, Bowser is up to his usual tricks and, not content with just taking over the castles of the Kingdom, literally becomes them. He steals the main source of power for the kingdom, named Wonder Power, and Mario’s crew commits to helping the Flower Kingdom, all in the name of maintaining healthy political relationships between the kingdoms. Of course. Prince Florian joins them along the way, though I’ll explain his involvement later.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder Preview - Bowser Steals From The Flower Kingdom

While it’s ironically not named New Super Mario Bros., Wonder is all new in practically every way. A new kingdom. New characters to play as. Brand new mechanics to rely upon. The formula is tried and true- tackle a set of courses and attempt to make it through to the end. You never fix what isn’t broken. But playing these few levels for the preview, it’s evident that Nintendo is redefining what a platformer can be and, even better, drawing on their experience with both 2D and 3D Mario games to offer something familiar and new.

As I mentioned, Wonder looks deceptively similar to previous Super Mario Bros. games. Players choose their characters and travel on a map to different courses. On each course, the goal is to find some collectibles and make it to the end unscathed. This time around, there are twelve playable characters. Mario, Luigi, Peach, Daisy, Yellow Toad, Blue Toad and Toadette are all part of the main roster. There are also four different types of Yoshi and Nabbit selectable, though these options are for less experienced players as they don’t take damage. All in all, it’s a strong and varied roster, and it’s especially nice to see Peach and (to a lesser extent, sorry Daisy fans) Daisy playable.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder Preview - Character Selection Screen

But it is when Wonder does things differently that makes it special. Every course I played had a Wonder Flower to find, and upon finding that Wonder Flower, it would warp the level in some way to change the level in a major way. Most of these are done in a way you wouldn’t typically see in Mario. In the first level I played, the pipes on the ground began crawling across the level like caterpillars. On others, Mario has to outrun a series of boulder-like spiked balls as he collects tokens. It’s a wild experience that I can’t wait to see more of – you just know that Nintendo is hiding some juicy secrets behind these collectibles and that these aspects included in the preview were only scratching the surface of what Wonder offers.

The other significant new addition is the badges. These are worn by Prince Florian and split into three types, often bestowing some effect on the party while Florian wears them. Action badges give the party new abilities – like a taller jump, a quicker dash or even a grappling hook-style ability. They really change up the way you can approach the platforming. Effect badges give the party an effect, like allowing the party to bounce up for a second chance from a fatal drop. Expert badges are the most interesting- one makes the team invisible (and ignored by enemies) but obviously makes it harder to play, given you can’t see your character.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder - Peach Using The Grappling Vine Badge

There’s a whole bunch of badges that can be equipped between deaths or before entering a course, and they’re one of the best new things about Super Mario Bros. Wonder. The potential for players to customise their platforming experience to play how they want to play is one of the greatest design choices made with Wonder. It offers a degree of flexibility that a Mario game has not offered before. Some of these badges make the experience much more approachable, which less experienced players will appreciate. It’s an ingenious system and one that I’m, once again, excited to see more of in the final game.


In my time with the game, I was also able to use the new elephant power-up, which was instantly made into a meme when it was first shown off with the game’s reveal. Elephant Mario controls just like you’d expect him to, but he can use his trunk to destroy blocks from the side and transport and spray water. It wasn’t quite as brand new a power-up as I expected, but given how much of Wonder is new, I’m okay with this ever-so-slight recycling of abilities from previous games. The Bubble Flower and Drill Hat are the other significant new abilities, but I didn’t get as much time with them in this preview, though I am excited to try them in the final game.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder Preview - Elephant Mario Long Jumping

Playing multiplayer is a blast, too and easy to set up. Like previous 2D Mario games, up to four players can play together. While there’s a lot more going on when playing with other people, multiplayer can make things easier. You don’t instantly die, for one, instead taking a ghostly form and requiring a revive from your friends. There’s also no more colliding with others. Nobody can pick up and throw anyone anymore, so the whole game flow feels just as good as when you’re playing solo, just a lot more hectic.

But the biggest surprise for me comes with the change in art direction. Super Mario Bros. Wonder is visually one of the most impressive-looking Mario games, donning a new artistic style that I can’t describe accurately but can acknowledge its distinctiveness. Mario and even enemies are visually expressive, colours pop, and during all of this malarkey, the framerate remains rock solid. While the scope and scale might not be akin to Odyssey or even Bowser’s Fury, Wonder is still not to be underestimated from a presentation standpoint.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder Preview - Goombas In Danger

Of course, I still have some concerns going forward without playing the entire game. I’ve always felt that the Mario games could benefit from some more challenging boss battles, and I, unfortunately, couldn’t discern whether that was the case from my time with these courses. Similarly, with so many fantastic ideas being thrown at me, especially during the Wonder Flower segments, I have to wonder if these will continue to be as surprising or as inventive for the entirety of the game’s run.

All of these concerns might be alleviated after playing the final game when it comes later this month. But for now, Super Mario Bros. Wonder has done more than impress me. It’s made me start to anticipate 2D Mario games more than ever. I’ve always enjoyed dipping my toes in the 2D Mario pool from time to time. Now I’m ready to spend hours there wholly submerged. It’s shaping up to be something truly worthy of its title – a true wonder to behold.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder Preview - Mario Escapes An Avalanche

Super Mario Bros. Wonder launches on October 20th, 2023 exclusively for Nintendo Switch. Amazon has physical pre-orders for $69 including shipping.